(Image courtesy CDC)

(Image courtesy CDC)

State reports dwindling monoclonal antibody supply

Some shipments on backorder started to arrive Thursday, but supplies are still limited.

State officials said monoclonal antibody COVID-19 treatments are under-stocked throughout Alaska, as many of the country’s shipments of the medication are on backorder.

Coleman Cutchins, a clinical pharmacist with the Department of Health and Social Services, said during a press briefing Thursday that the current COVID surge in Alaska is overwhelming the health care sector, as well as creating more of a demand for antibody infusions.

“Monoclonal antibodies were the first thing that we saw to really become very scarce in just a short period of time, (which is) really driven by a lot of large states with a lot of cases,” Cutchins said Thursday. “Last week, no one received any other shipments around the country. … Unfortunately, we’re running out of monoclonal antibodies.”

He said that some shipments on backorder started to arrive Thursday, but supplies are still limited.

The investigational medication, which is being provided free by the federal government, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization as a therapy for mild to moderate COVID-19.

According to the FDA in May the “safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated.” Monoclonal antibodies, which create proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses before they enter human cells, is not authorized for patients hospitalized or on oxygen therapy due to COVID.

Cutchins said that once people get vaccinated against the virus there will be less of a demand for monoclonal antibodies. The COVID-19 vaccines are meant to create antibodies before a person even becomes exposed to the virus.

The treatment shortage comes as the state announced 1,270 new COVID cases on Thursday, which closely aligns with the seven-day rolling case average of 1,209.7 cases. This is slightly down from the all-time high of the pandemic — a seven-day average of 1,269.7 on Sunday — but still nearly double the highest seven-day average reported during last winter’s surge.

Alaska remained at a high alert level Thursday. The threshold for high alert levels is 100 or more cases per 100,000 people. The state has surpassed that metric more than 10 times over.

Cutchins said Thursday that three weeks ago the federal government allocated monoclonal antibody treatments based on the number of cases and hospitalizations of each state, cross-referenced with the quantity of medication on hand.

Now, he said, since there’s a shortage, the allocation is different under guidelines from the National Institutes of Health.

“They’re… recommending that unvaccinated people who are at higher risk for severe disease or fully vaccinated people who are not expected to mount an adequate immune response should be given priority when receiving these drugs,” Cutchins said.

Officials with the DHSS said Thursday that although monoclonal antibodies have encouraging data for treating early-stage mild or moderate COVID, vaccines are the safest and most effective tool at Alaskans’ disposal for turning the tide on the pandemic.

“Prevention costs a whole lot less money,” Cutchins said.

To date, 60.3% of Alaskans 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID, and another 63.2% have received at least one dose.

The Kenai Peninsula lags behind the statewide average, with 50.2% of residents 12 and older fully vaccinated, and 52.6% with at least the first shot of their series.

As new cases and hospitalizations grow in Alaska, which still had the highest number of COVID cases per capita in the United States on Thursday, officials urge people to consider getting the vaccine now more than ever.

On Thursday, the state had one of the highest seven-day average COVID fatality rates in the country as the state reported 10 more deaths. Some of the deaths reported reflect backlogged data.

According to state data, 556 Alaskans have died due to COVID since the pandemic began.

Of the 10 reported Thursday, one was a Soldotna resident in his 40s.

Officials said with a dwindling supply of monoclonal antibodies — the only post-exposure COVID treatment proven effective at this time — vaccines will help keep Alaskans safe.

Cutchins emphasized that the more people get vaccinated the fewer monoclonal antibody treatments will be needed.

Testing locations

Officials encourage anyone with symptoms to test for COVID-19, despite vaccination status.

In Kenai, testing is available at the Chignik Lagoon Clinic, Odyssey Family Practice, Kenai Public Health Center and Capstone Clinic.

In Soldotna, testing is available at the Peninsula Community Health Center, Urgent Care of Soldotna, Walgreens and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy.

In Seward, testing is available at Providence Medical Center, Chugachmiut-North Star Health Clinic, Glacier Family Medicine, Seward Community Health Center and the Safeway pharmacy. Starting Sept. 14, the Seward Community Health Center is offering drive-thru testing Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

In Homer, testing is available at South Peninsula Hospital, or through other area health care providers at Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness, Kachemak Medical Group and Homer Medical Center.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters during a news briefing on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. Dunleavy said he doesn’t see his acceptance of former President Donald Trump’s endorsement as hurting his relationship with the state’s senior U.S. senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, who voted to convict Trump at his impeachment trial last year and whom Trump has vowed to fight in her reelection bid. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer,File)
Dunleavy says work with Murkowski endures despite Trump nod

Trump last month praised Dunleavy and offered his endorsement, provided that Dunleavy does not endorse Murkowski

The Homer City Council asks Jan Keiser, Public Works Department director, questions about the Homer Green Infrastructure Management System during the Jan. 10, 2022, worksession. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Letting nature do what it does best

New green infrastructure project to solve drainage issues

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel and Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander speak at the Kenai City Council meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Due to COVID spike, state funds to be used to cover city administrative leave

COVID cases are up 38% from last week, and have risen significantly since mid-December.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce is photographed at the Kenai Peninsula Clarion office in Kenai, Alaska, on Sept. 25, 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Pierce joins race for governor

The borough mayor notified borough officials in an email Thursday

Laura Dewey’s art is on display at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Art of the wild

New Kenai visitor center show features the vivid colors of nature

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Jan.19, 2022, in Washington. In a rebuff to former President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court is allowing the release of presidential documents sought by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
Supreme Court allows Jan. 6 committee to get Trump docs

Following the high court’s action, there is no legal impediment to turning over the documents

From left to right: Anna DeVolld, Rachel Sallaffie, John Green, Carl Schrader and Nona Safra were honored at an awards ceremony in Anchorage on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by Gov. and First Lady Dunleavy. Schrader, a Juneau resident, was honored for his work in hospice care. (Courtesy photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)
Dunleavy appoints peninsula residents to boards, commissions

Volunteer of the Year Safra is appointed to Commission on Aging

Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News
Volunteers distibute a meal to attendees at Project Homeless Connect on Jan. 29, 2020 at Homer United Methodist Church in Homer, Alaska. The event is a one-day opportunity for the homeless to get access to necessary supplies and services.
Project Homeless Connect Homer offers free resouces Jan. 26

A free resources event has been planned for people experiencing homelessness at two southern peninsula locations.

Most Read